The Stars of Gossip Girl Have Addressed That ‘Woke’ Controversy

: (L-R) Thomas Doherty, Josh Schwartz, Stephanie Savage, Jordan Alexander, Whitney Peak, Savannah Sm...
Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

On Wednesday evening in New York City, Tavi Gevinson was on the red carpet at the Manhattan premiere of Gossip Girl, discussing her earliest memories of the original show, which first aired in 2007—when she was just 11 years old.

“I recently found a picture I took with my Canon digital camera when I was like, 13, of the TV,” said Gevinson, who plays the character Kate on the HBO Max reboot launching on July 8. “It was of Chuck and Blair at a funeral. I don't know why I took it, but I have it posted on my Flickr.”

The entire cast—including Evan Mock, Eli Brown, Thomas Doherty, Jordan Alexander, Whitney Peak, Savannah Smith, and Emily Alyn Lind—congregated at Spring Studios to celebrate the new show, which has caused a fair amount of buzz in recent months. Details on the reboot have largely been hush-hush, but that hasn’t stopped countless rumors and projections about what the new Gossip Girl could be about—nor has it prevented paparazzi from sneaking shots of the cast filming on the streets of New York City. With the release of each crumb-size detail from the show comes conversation afresh online. Last week, an interview between creator Josh Safran and Variety published in which Safran stated that the new crop of Upper East Siders “wrestle with their privilege in a way that...the original didn’t.” The Internet claimed a “woke” Gossip Girl defeated the backbone of the show: portraying the wild lives of out-of-touch rich kids.

Jordan Alexander

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Savannah Smith

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Eli Brown and Thomas Doherty

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Tavi Gevinson

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Emily Alyn Lind

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“Whoever said that aren’t people living in 2021, and they’re not teenagers,” Safran said last night. “The quote didn’t run in its entirety, which is the idea that, just because these characters are aware of their privilege does not mean they don't abuse it. It's what makes the show twistier and even more devious than the original, because you watch kids who should know better and who do know better, and they’re still doing it.”

“I don’t feel the need to address it [in later seasons] at all,” he added. “I’m not worried.”

Alexander, who plays the character Julien Calloway and sported a sheer mask punctuated by two large, pink bows during her turn on the red carpet, agreed. “The Gossip Girl characters are online,” she said. “It’s impossible for them not to know their privilege.”

Whitney Peak

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Peak, who plays Zoya Lott, a character she describes as “cool, grounded, and very well-educated,” said the characters are still flawed, which won’t detract from the drama and petty nature of the show. “I think maybe back then, it was easier to avoid the conversation of dealing with your privilege, but obviously today, it’s very much in your face,” she said.

As for the secrecy surrounding Gossip Girl, Peak said keeping the paps away from set while filming has been a challenge. “Whenever there’s a couple scene outside, it’s always given away right away,” she said. Every picture gives away a hint of a storyline—including photographs that were released one week ago that depicted Peak, Alexander, and Smith re-creating the Beyoncé-Jay Z-Solange-post-elevator moment after the 2014 Met Gala. “I was very upset about that!,” Peak said. “But the looks only gave away, maybe, a tenth of the piece—so there’s still a lot more to that episode than everybody thinks.”

Evan Mock

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But Safran has a solution for the prying eyes trying to sneak a peek at his show. He said he’s employed a bait-and-switch method since the OG Gossip Girl when, while filming the finale of season two, he faked a scene to confuse the crowd.

“Chuck was going to tell Blair he loved her in front of the Plaza Hotel, and there were 300 people waiting outside for photographs,” he recalled. “I quickly called Chace [Crawford], asked him to come down in costume and do the scene with Leighton [Meester]. She did the scene with Ed [Westwick,] Ed went inside, and then we brought Chace out, and he did the scene.”

Savannah Smith and Emily Alyn Lin

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“We’ve taken those rules into now, too. Before it was out there that Tavi was a teacher, we always had a uniform costume standing by for Tavi to change into if the paparazzi were there.” It’s safe to say Gossip Girl would be proud.